Control vs. Diversity
In working with a Russian client, I had an experience similar to the one I had working with the Ministry of Health of Ghana over forty years ago.
In Russia I was structuring the organization of the regions, of which the client had seventeen of them. All over Russia.
When I would structure, let us say region Y, the client would be in disagreement with the structure because it did not fit region X.
So we proceeded to structure region X. Now he was in deep doubt if it is the right structure for X because it did not fit Y.
I got an illumination: he was trying to find a template where all the regions will be structured the same way.
Ah, this Soviet Union legacy of sameness.
Why are they so attached to sameness? What is the source of this cultural bias?
I realized then that I had the same experience in Ghana forty years ago.
The British Imperialist structured the public service in all their colonies the same way: For control.
During the colonial era, when a foreign service official was trained in Britain, he was trained so he could serve anywhere in the world, in any territory without much difficulty because all ministries, all public service organizations, were structured the same way, all over the world.
In the Soviet Union apparently the same practice ruled: sameness to get max control from the center, from the Kremlin.
In structuring the territories for this Russian client, I was trying to convince him that each territory should be structured as it makes sense to that territory. The distances are different, the communication complexities are different (Many cities in Russia have no direct air transport connection. You have to fly to Moscow to connect to the other city. Moscow is the hub for all of Russia in more ways than one.)
The VP in charge of the territories was very uncomfortable with structural diversity, so I asked myself: why in the West, in the market economy, we are comfortable with such diversity?
My insight is that in capitalist society, we seek performance more than control. We measure the performance of a territory, and if for increasing performance we need to accept its indigenous reasons to be different, so be it. We do not care what you do (within limits of the law and ethics) as long as you perform.
In totalitarian systems, it is not performance that calls the shots. It is control. Control first and above all. And in such case, performance suffers. It is not strange than that the Russian economy and for that matter all communist countries economies suffered from poor economic performance.
And that was true for colonial Britain too. Performance of the colonies was less important than being controlled from London.
And when the colonies got emancipated they remained structured for control which undermined their capability to maximize performance.
Or, as I have said in many of my lectures, what is bad about colonialism is not what they took out, but what they left behind: a culture of maximizing control at the expense of performance.
The above insight has more to it.
What I am describing above is the conflict between effectiveness and efficiency, ie between diversity and controllability.
Efficiency can increase profitability but as long as it does not decrease effectiveness to the point of sub-optimalization.
Increase efficiency but watch what is happening to effectiveness. At a certain point (using marginal analysis) you might find out that one more unit of efficiency will decrease overall profitability because of the loss in effectiveness.
Hope this is clear.
Wish you all well.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes